Think Your Dog’s Tricks Are Just for Fun? How They Can Help in Real-Life Situations
Your dog’s tricks aren’t just for show — they can be fabulously functional, too! Focusing on tricks can help your dog calm down in exciting situations and can help redirect his energy away from unwanted behaviors like barking or jumping. For example, a dog who tends to chase everything that moves — including small children and other animals — can be distracted by asking him for a series of active tricks, like sit and roll over and spin. This can create a diversion until the dog — or the child or animal — can be moved to another space.
Here are some simple tricks to teach your dog that can help you manage real-life situations.
Go to Your Spot
Teaching your dog to go to a specific spot — his bed, a mat, his crate — in response to a command can be very helpful. If your dog barks at the doorbell or is an overly excitable greeter, teaching him to go to his mat when the doorbell rings and stay there until he is released will keep him from rushing the door.
Ward off mealtime begging by asking your dog to go to his spot and stay there until you are finished eating. Sending your dog to his spot can also be helpful if your pooch gets overly excited about his own dinner. When it’s time for your dog’s meal, ask him to go and wait on his spot until his meal is delivered to him. Bonus: The messy or crumbly remains of a food puzzle, chew or meal can be contained in a specific space rather than scattered around your home.
Is your dog constantly under your feet? This can be dangerous for you and your dog, especially if you’re carrying something in your hands. To avoid an accident, send him to his spot while you unload the groceries or move hot food around in the kitchen. When you’re done with your task, reward him with treats or attention.
Playing dead can be a simple way to calm an anxious dog. The play-dead position can be naturally relaxing for dogs who willingly lie this way. If your dog is upset, excited or just needs a breather, ask him to play dead. This trick can also be useful if your dog is pacing around on the couch or bed while you’re trying to settle yourself.
The trick can also come in handy if you need to check your dog for injury or examine him for ticks or other parasites. The play-dead position allows you better access to areas that can be hard to examine, like under the legs or the belly. To get your dog used to staying in the side-lay position even while he is being touched, start with slight touches for short periods of time. Be sure to reward him for staying still while you examine him. Gradually extend the time you ask him to play dead and keep the rewards coming.
Teaching your dog to hand target has many uses. A dog who jumps on people when greeting them can be can be taught to touch his nose to a visitor’s hand in greeting instead. If your dog is especially excited by visitors, ask him to hand target multiple times between people or switch hands until the need to jump up has passed.
Hand targeting is also a simple way to get a dog to move away from an off-limits piece of furniture or food that has been left on the counter, and it can also be helpful for pet owners who cannot lift their dogs. Use the technique to move your dog onto the sofa or into his crate by asking him to touch his nose to a hand held directly in the area.
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